Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Training, March 27 though April 2: Coxsmacked edition

As good as it is to be back in my hometown of Concord, N.H, not much about this week was good from the standpoint of focused perambulation. My top priority to this point -- whether I've admitted it to myself or not -- has obviously been piling on easy-to-moderate miles, day after day, for the sake of exploring the countryside and fondling donkeys and maintaining what passes for a state of fine mental health, rather than upping the ante and preparing myself to, you know, race. Sure, I've semi-regularly ejaculated declarations of goals onto this blog, and as I demonstrated today, I can at least haul myself to a sanctioned event and pay for a bib and go through the motions of completing it, looking only somewhat like a hapless dingbat in the process. But this, alas, is more out of a partially rekindled habit than a genuine desire to compete again.

Therefore, no legitimate reason exists for me to cut back on my workload in anticipation of a formal timed jogging event.

But I feel obligated to participate in that part of the charade as well, so I "rested" for a 5K that was supposed to be yesterday (Saturday) but was postponed by the management on Thursday afternoon to today (Sunday) thanks to a forecast involving serious snowfall. My rest wasn't especially restful, though. I didn't run much this week (five easy miles a day for the first four days of the week, then eight on Friday and four yesterday) but had to do a disproportionate amount of my work in the beginning of the week because Wednesday and Thursday were effectively shot thanks to preparing to travel and actually traveling.  

In short, the SEA 5K (results) would have been a very unpleasant experience had I gone all-out, and was somewhat unsavory anyway. For one thing, I couldn't sleep worth a damn and actually didn't doze off until after 6 a,m, (the race was at 10 and my host and I left the house at 8:45). This is really my own fault. I'm an inveterate night owl -- I habitually do a lot of screwing around during the day at the expense of having to scramble to meet work deadlines after midnight, and biologically I'm still on Mountain Time to boot. It's common for me to be up until 2 or 2:30, and my "morning" runs are usually at noon or 1 p.m.

I was committed, however, to at least showing up at the event, and I'm glad I did, because it was a reunion of sorts, as I expected it would be. I did some of the warm-up with eventual second-placer and fellow CMSer Jim Johnson, a jovial and entertaining fellow, and we talked about all sorts of amusing things, many of which have been the subject of this blog over the years. (Jim's own recap of the race is here.) But I knew well before the race started that I wasn't going to be pushing very hard, and even if I had I don't think I would have gone all that much faster than I did (more on this sad fact below).  I'm actually glad there were no splits given, or even any visible mile marks on the course. I couldn't have told you within 15 seconds a mile either way what my pace was until I saw the clock as I wobbled down the finishing stretch. I think I ran a little faster for the first mile than I did for the other two, but I'll never know

On the bright side, I seem to be developing a very strange niche: running the SEA 5K in odd-numbered years in close contact with longtime Coe-Brown Academy coach and friend Tim Cox's very quick 14-year-old daughter Addie. Two years ago, I caught up to her in the last half-mile and we ran around 18:55; this time, she caught up to me about a mile in and we ran 30 seconds faster. (Meanwhile, her 11-year-old brother Aidan was ahead of us en route to a 17:08. You read that right. The official world record for 11-year-old boys is 16:45.)


I was aghast to discover at the awards "cememony" that I had "won" the 45-to-49 age group. This is not a point of pride, obviously, but it affords me the opportunity to segue neatly into my primary thesis here, which is that age-group prizes in road races should be abolished, at least at the high end. It's just one more form of unwarranted handicapping, and it encourages people who might otherwise have the good sense to stay home and pound Cheetos and bourbon to continue showing up and making even more of a freak-show of the proceedings than they already are (and anyone who's ever attended a road race is painfully aware of the ghastly sort of turbocharged misfits these gatherings invariably feature).

Being given a bottle of maple syrup (today's swag) or a ribbon or even a handshake when you're a quarter of a mile behind the winner in a 5K race isn't motivating; it's humiliating, and it's an insult to the younger people far ahead of you who aren't given any special recognition despite whipping your ass because they weren't in the top three overall or whatever. You don't see 60-year-olds being given roster spots on Major League Baseball teams because a 73-MPH fastball "isn't bad for that age." (This is another of countless signs that distance running is a way for the AD/HD-afflicted and uncoordinated folks of society to blow off steam, not something that should serve as an avenue for anyone to earn varsity letters and athletic scholarships.)

Getting old isn't so bad. Running as a "sport" isn't the worst thing you can do with yourself either, given the range of ways to be a worthless screw-up in your life. But running races when you're getting old has to be among the most futile things I can think of. I have no idea how anyone who was ever remotely fast can enjoy competing once the chances of coming within even 10 percent of your best performances drops to zero. I'm actually in admiration of those who can do it, even as the AARP literature starts to dominate their mailboxes, because racing for me hasn't been about beating people since I left high school, it's been about reaching certain times.


What sucks is that I can't run ten miles a day without continually thinking about racing, and I can't *not* run ten miles a day without continually thinking about slashing the tires and breaking the windshields of every car I see, parked or otherwise. (Not really, but that visual seems to get the right point across.)

For the week I racked up 45 miles, 13 of them today (I ran six surprisingly pleasant miles tonight after watching "Girl Next Door," which was not without its charms).

Understand this: I doubt I had any better than a 17:30 in me this morning even had I run my absolute heart out. It is therefore a good thing that I didn't try, because if I had managed to confirm that I am incapable of anything faster than 5:40 pace for 5K right now, this whole silly quest would already be over, I was never very fast to begin with, but 17:30 is just a dogshit time for someone who ran over 2 1/2 minutes faster than that at age 34 and is not actually elderly or infirm, and nothing will ever dissuade me from this so there's no point in going there. I understand that I'm still only a few months into serious training, but if I am not running in the low 16's by fall or managing equivalent times in my wheelhouse distances, my racing shoes are going into a bonfire.

I'm also bored with this fucking blog, and I'm considering updating it once a month rather than weekly, excluding the random expulsions about other things I sometimes create. But having posted something every Sunday so far this year, I know that basic compulsion will have me continuing to do this.

Anyway, you'd never know it, but I'm glad I took part today. Troy, my host, manages to turn every conversation in these settings into a story about something both of us were involved in 30 years ago as members of a state champion cross-country team (he managed about a 21:30 today as a dreaded URO) and he doesn't hesitate to expand enthusiastically on such matters to people who were complete strangers to him mere seconds before.


  1. Nice job! If you were a mutual fund I would invest 5,000 in your 5k time considering you didn't do any speed training with the hope in a half year you would show me sub 17.

  2. Thanks, but you're supposed to be more impressed with my playful denigration of age-groupers like myself than with my performance.

    The good thing is that, while you're correct about my lack of speed work, I don't really need to improve my fitness substantially to get to the sub-17 level. I do need to be more attentive to basics like proper sleep. I can give myself a pass for being unprepared this race because of just having gotten to New England in the days before and being out of whack mostly on that basis, but I won't have that excuse next time. I'm sure I'll have a different one instead.

  3. $5000 in 4.5 months? I would have to think about it. Say the other day things worked out exceptional, 18 flat or up. We got a whole minute to go still. Things have been going smooth in your training injury wise and spirit is great which of course is awesome, but a market correction is due one would think. But this would still be another potentially great time to buy Beck.

  4. What the hell Beck! Why don't me and you get a few slobs together, maybe quite more than a few and we will rate every runner in the country and estimate there future performance. Betting even. I could start something like this easy and I bet the site would get a million hits even without betting. College, high school, etc. Get rich and have a lot of enemies which may be even cooler,lol. But I am much too burnt out,99% mentally and that has been my Achilles heel. You could handle it though.

  5. Hey Kev, I checked out your very prestigious athlinks account. Some fast times. Boston 2:24 bingo. Your flirting with breaking the 15 minute mark in a 5k turns eyes. You done it all. Great Runner, Great Author, Great Coach. Great Comeback!

    1. I actually broke 15:00 on the track in 2004 at the Johnny Mathis Classic at San Francisco State University. I set most of my PRs at age 34, in fact, despite running and racing more or less continuously to that point. Yet some people are washed up by their mid-30s. I don't think most people start to physically decline until 35 or a little later, but if you've set some really fast personal bests in your 20s -- which I didn't, not by my own or anyone's standards -- that takes a bite out of your motivation later.

    2. Wow, sub 15 is really fast. Motivation is always tough for me but I have to run even if it's only a half hour a day at a sub 7:30 pace because I need to stay healthy. You had that illness last year so it's good your keeping your immune system up. Would you have got it if you were in really good shape? Who knows? You certainly don't seem burnt out running wise. Avoid the injuries and you will dominate your age group and I don't know how the competition is out there but here in central mass you would be on the verge of winning some decent races outright. We think of Larry Olson. Motivation and speed but also great sadness. You may have that type of age enduring speed! It was sad he died soo young though. You could easily live to 100, no worries.

  6. Sorry to hog your blog Kev. This is the last of it. A guy you could make faster would be Tim Ritchie. We all know about the fast half marathon. The thing about it is that he did it primarily by training around Boston. I don't believe too many top Kenyans could run that fast if they had the stress of living and training and working near Boston. Rodgers and those guys got away with it but those were less stress times. No internet and no cell phones, more peace of mind. He needs to run in Colorado, trails, mountains. He is not at all different from Ryan Hall. Beautiful stride. Runs his miles probably too fast and not enough of them. It would be a great match. Sub 2:10 no doubt. If Hall was training around Boston he would not have been as fast.

  7. Hey Kev, you wouldn't believe this but if you google it you will see that a girl was found in India raised by monkeys. I wish I found a woman around age 21-29 raised by wolves in the woods. You never know. I would be really sweet to her. Pink Collar treatment. Any time I wanted to go running I would take my Woofy girl and she would love it. She would probably be content because she grew up in nature. She would probably get me to do more morning running by licking my face to get up. Going fishing would be fun too. I have heard stories about this but fact or myth is to be debated. Maybe Woofy girl somewhere out there is my soul mate and running partner. Or maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic runner? Who knows? Who cares, right?